1931: William Walton takes a huge choir and a massive symphony orchestra, adds a couple of brass bands, and blows English music sky-high. No-one saw that coming – but this was the height of the jazz age, and when the Leeds Festival asked Britain’s hottest and most controversial young composer to retell the Biblical story of the downfall of Babylon, he was never going to play it safe. Huge, brazen and shamelessly savage, Belshazzar’s Feast is nothing less than outrageous: a stunning, once-in-a-decade showcase for the CBSO’s famous choruses. And no-one makes this music sound more thrilling than John Wilson – because even when he’s not conducting his own sensational orchestra, he knows how to make British music catch fire. He’s got American music practically under his skin, too, whether it’s the primary coloured freshness of Copland’s pioneer ballet Appalachian Spring (featuring the hymn tune Simple Gifts) or the art-deco chic of Samuel Barber’s gorgeous Violin Concerto – played today by the phenomenal James Ehnes.
Symphony HallSymphony Hall, Birmingham, B1 2EA
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